[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]
After reading Lionel Beehner’s article entitled “9,000 Google hits can’t be wrong – or can they?” in the Christian Science Monitor, I can’t help but agree on most of the issues involved. I’ve always thought that Google was the tool of the layman (at least in media terms) to finding out about anything and everything. We know it’s not the perfect tool, but it generally works out. Don’t have Lexis-Nexis at your disposal? Google it. No interns to make some phone calls on your behalf? Google again. You get the picture.
According to Beehner, journalists are following the same trend, using Google “statistics” to create value for the stories they are reporting. Heck, if I were an editor and someone came in to me saying “Look, this article about stale bread is gonna be huge! There are 26,200 references on Google to the topic, as opposed to only 615 for stale crackers!”, and I didn’t know how Google worked, I would probably at least think about it, right? Wrong.
If every single mention of something is caught on Google, and it’s someone’s name, like Britney Spears, or Pamela Anderson, we should be wary. Not only to people use things like this unscrupulously to lure readers to their sites, but some totally unrelated sites put terms in their “meta tags”, or part of the HTML coding that makes up their web pages. You can skew things all you want – create 500 pages that link to a particular site, and you instantly create value to the algorithms that make up Google’s brain – among other search sites. I love Google as much as the next person – I use it 99% of the time I’m looking for things on the Internet. But it’s not a perfect science, and unfortunately, it seems to be something that so many people have bought into that they consider it their perfect research buddy.